U.S. Navy - A Brief History of Cruisers

The Cruisers

A Brief History of U.S. Navy Cruisers
Part I - The Early Years (1883 - 1899)

Sources: American Naval History, 1984
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

All images below are hyperlinked to larger images for better viewing. All images are official Navy photographs.


Picture, caption follows. Mar. 3, 1883 - The 1884 Navy Appropriation Act authorized construction of the cruisers USS Atlanta, USS Boston, and USS Chicago. These steel ships was the first equipped with modern breechloading guns and this act marked the beginning of the transition from wood and sail to steel and steam. The Act also, incidentally, changed the rank of master to lieutenant (junior grade).
Picture, caption follows. Sep. 7, 1888 - USS New York (ACR 2), and six smaller cruisers, including USS Olympia (C 6), was authorized by Congress.
Picture, caption follows. Aug. 28, 1891 - USS Baltimore (C 3) and USS San Francisco (C 5) landed a party commanded by Captain William S. Muce, USMC, to guard the U.S. Consulate at Valparaiso during the Chilean civil war.
Picture, caption follows. Oct. 16, 1891 - Incident at the True Blue Saloon: Two sailors was killed and several injured when a liberty party from the cruiser USS Baltimore became embroiled with a mob of Chileans at the True Blue Saloon in Valparaiso. The Chilean foreign minister made offensive remarks which only aggravated the ensuing crisis so that by December war between the United States and Chili appeared possible. At the time, the Chilean Navy was better equipped than the American Navy.
Picture, caption follows. Jan. 16, 1893 - Hawaiian intervention: American settlers in Hawaii revolted against Queen Liliukalani, after she proclaimed a new constitution that reduced their influence in the islands' government. The success of the uprising was assured when U.S. Minister John L. Stevens had the cruiser USS Boston, then at Honolulu, land 150 Sailors and Marines, to protect the American legation. The settlers wanted the United States to annex the islands, but the incoming Democratic administration of President Grover Cleveland disappointed them, and in 1894 Hawaii became an independent republic./TD>
Picture, caption follows. Aug. 1, 1893 - The Navy's first armored cruiser, the 8,150-ton USS New York (ARC 2), was commissioned at Philadelphia.
Picture, caption follows. Jul. 24, 1894 - A party of 50 Sailors and Marines under Captain George Fielding Elliott, USMC, was sent from the cruiser USS Baltimore (C 3) to guard the American legation at Seoul, Korea, during the Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese had just landed troops in Korea.
Picture, caption follows. Mar. 18, 1898 - In view of the possibility of war with Spain, a Flying Squadron was formed for the defense of the eastern seaboard commanded by Acting Commodore Winfield Scott Schley. The squadron consisted of USS Brooklyn (ACR 3), USS Massachusetts (BB 2) and USS Texas, USS Columbia (C 12) and USS Minneapolis (C 13).
Picture, caption follows. Apr. 27, 1898 - First action in the Spanish-American War: The armored cruiser USS New York (ACR 2), flagship of Admiral Sampson, cruiser USS Cincinnati (C 7), and monitor USS Puritan (BM 1) engaged and silenced two Spanish batteries at Matanzas, Cuba.
Picture, caption follows. May 1, 1898 - Battle of Manila Bay: Commodore Dewey led the Asiatic Squadron past the shore batteries and mines in the bay to soundly defeat the anchored Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. His squadron consisted of the protected cruisers USS Olympia (C 6), (flag), USS Baltimore (C 3), USS Boston, USS Raleigh (C 8), several gunboats and a revenue cutter.
Picture, caption follows. May 3, 1898 - A party under Lieutenant Dion Williams, USMC, from the cruisers USS Baltimore (C 3) and USS Raleigh (C 8) landed on Corregidor in Manila Bay, capturing the Spanish garrison, and securing the island's main guns.
Picture, caption follows. May 11, 1898 - Cable cutting at Cienfuegos: to sever communications between the Spanish colonial administration in Cuba and the government in Madrid, the decision was made to cut the three underwater cables leading from Cieneuegos to Jamaica. On this date, volunteer boat parties from the cruiser USS Marblehead (C 11) and gunboat USS Nashville (PG 7) commanded by Lieutenants C.M. Winslow and E. A. Anderson rowed within 100 feet of the beach to dredge up the cables at Cienfuegos. Soon after they were attacked by Spanish soldiers ashore killing several Sailors. They persisted in their work for two-and-a-half hours, during which they cut the cables. For their heroism, some 54 Medals of Honor was awarded for this operation.
Picture, caption follows. May 12, 1898 - The search for Cervera: assuming that the Spanish Cape Verde squadron will set sail for Puerto Rico, Admiral Sampson proceeded there with the armored cruiser USS New York (ACR 12), flag, battleships USS Indiana (BB 1) and USS Iowa (BB 4), the monitors USS Amphitrite (BM 2) and USS Terror (BM 4), the cruisers USS Detroit (C 10) and USS Montgomery (C 9), arriving off San Juan before dawn. The Spanish squadron was not there. After bombarding the harbor fortifications for two hours, Sampson set a course for Key West, which he reached on May 18. He later learned that Cervera's ships coaled at Curacao, Netherlands West Indies, on May 14-15 and departed in the direction of Cuba. He found Cervera and the Spanish fleet anchored off of Santiago on May 28.
Picture, caption follows. May 31, 1898 - Commodore Schley conducted a long ranger bombardment of the coastal fortifications at Santiago with the battleships USS Massachusetts (BB 2), flag, and USS Iowa (BB 4) and the cruiser USS New Orleans.
  Jun. 1, 1898 - Admiral Sampson assumed command of U.S. Naval forces off Santiago. For the moment, the strategic situation was stalemated. Sampson could not enter the harbor, which was located at the end of a narrow, twisting channel heavily protected by minefields and forts. Cervera could not leave without encountering Sampson's greatly superior fleet.

Picture, caption follows. June 6, 1898 - The fortifications covering the channel into Santiago was shelled by Sampson's squadron, consisting of battleships USS Iowa (BB 4),USS Massachusetts (BB 2), USS Oregon (BB 3), and USS Texas, armored cruisers USS Brooklyn (ACR 3) and USS New York (ACR 2), cruisers USS Marblehead (C 11) and USS New Orleans, auxiliary cruisers USS Suwanee, USS Vixen, and USS Yankee, and the dispatch boat USS Dolphin. The Spanish cruiser Reina Mecedes, lying at the mouth of the harbor, was also engaged.
Picture, caption follows. Jun. 7, 1898 - The cruiser USS Marblehead (C 11), Commander Bowman H. McCalla, and auxiliary cruiser USS Yankee, Captain Willard A. Brownson, tested the defenses of Guantanamo Bay, 40 miles east of Santiago, silencing a Spanish battery and driving the gunboat Sandoval into the inner harbor. Admiral Sampson had decided to seize the bay for use as a coaling station and advance base.
UPicture, caption follows. Jun. 21, 1898 - In the Pacific, the cruiser USS Charleston (C 2), Captain Henry Glass, captured the island of Guam. The Spanish colonial authorities was not notified that a war had begun.
  Aug. 12, 1898 - In Washington, DC, representatives from the US and Spain signed an armistice which ended the Spanish-American War. Spain agreed to free Cuba and to cede Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States.

Picture, caption follows. Apr. 1, 1899 - Late in 1898 intertribal warfare broke out in the Samoan Islands, which was jointly administered by the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. American and British landing parties, the former from the protected cruiser USS Philadelphia (C 4), was put ashore to guard their consulates. On April 1, an Anglo-American patrol was ambushed in the jungle near Apia, on Upola Island. Four Americans and three British are killed and seven wounded.

Last Update: 22 June 2009